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Can Cats Have Allergies? Symptoms, Treatment & Info

Yes, cats can most definitely get allergies. Just like humans, cats can develop seasonal, environmental, and food allergies, and they can develop allergies to fleas too. Most allergies in cats are mild, but they can get severe and even fatal in rare cases. Knowing what allergies can affect cats can help you prevent and treat them before they become serious.

In this article, we look at the different types of allergies that can occur in cats, how to diagnose them, and how to treat them. Let’s get started!

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What causes allergies in cats?

There are three main types of allergies found in cats: environmental, food, and fleas. All of them produce the same result: an immune response. Your cat’s immune system will react to a substance by producing antibodies, even if it’s not harmful. Harmless substances like pollen can be perceived as a threat by your cat’s immune system, triggering a defensive response and causing inflammation, or an allergic reaction. This reaction is your cat’s body’s way of protecting itself from harm — even when there is none — and this causes their allergies.

Because there are so many things that can cause an allergic reaction in your cat, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. Common causes of allergic reactions include:

  • Pollens (grass, tree mold, etc.)
  • Food (most commonly, dairy and animal proteins like fish, beef, and chicken)
  • Fleas (the most common cause of allergies in cats)
  • Cleaning products (detergents and sprays)
  • Medications (shampoos, flea medication, etc.)
  • Cat litters made with chemicals or fragrance
  • Certain plastics
  • Perfume
  • Smoke
person holding wounded cat
Image Credit: Elena11, Shutterstock

Seasonal allergies to pollens are the easiest to diagnose, as they will come and go with the seasons. Flea allergies are also fairly easy to spot, as the reaction is usually accompanied by fleas and eggs.

What are the signs of allergies in cats?

There are various signs that your cat may be suffering from an allergic reaction, and the symptoms will vary depending on the allergy. Common signs and symptoms are:

  • Itchiness
  • Loss of hair
  • Skin irritation and redness
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose

If your cat has itchy skin or redness and loss of hair around their face or neck and is vomiting or has diarrhea, this is likely a sign of a food allergy. If they are scratching their back and biting their paws constantly, they likely have a flea allergy. Itching, sneezing, and coughing are common signs of environmental allergies.

How are cat allergies diagnosed?

It can be exceedingly difficult to discover exactly what is causing an allergic reaction in your cat. At home, you’ll need to try to eliminate all medication, cleaning products, and plastic food dishes and see if this helps. If you suspect that your cat may have a food allergy, you’ll have to put them on an elimination diet and then slowly reintroduce foods one at a time to test which one causes a reaction. Failing this, you’ll need to take your cat to the vet for diagnosis.

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Image Credit: Freepik

Allergy testing in cats is usually done with either a blood test or a skin test. A blood test will need to be sent off for analysis to a lab by your vet, and a skin test can be done on the spot. This involves injecting a substance into your cat’s skin and seeing if there is any reaction. Once your vet has diagnosed the cause, they will prescribe a specific treatment. There are supplements and medications available for cats with seasonal allergies that your vet may prescribe.

How are cat allergies treated?

There are a wide variety of ways to treat allergies in cats, depending on their specific allergy. Seasonal allergies are the most difficult to treat. You’ll need to keep your cat indoors when seasonal allergies occur and bathe them if they do go outside. That said, too much bathing can worsen the problem by drying out your cat’s skin.

Your vet will also prescribe certain medications if needed and give you advice on what to feed your cat if the allergy is food-related. If your suspect that your cat’s litter is the problem, switch to a more natural litter, such as paper-based varieties or non-fragranced options.

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Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to prevent your cat from getting allergies, but feeding them a healthy diet that supports their immune system, keeping their environment clean and dust-free, using natural cat litters, using ceramic or metal feeding bowls, and keeping them away from detergents and perfumes will all help prevent allergies in your cat.

Lastly, while these precautions can help and eliminating any potential causes may reduce your cat’s allergic symptoms, a consultation with your vet is always recommended.


Featured Image: Susan Santa Maria, Shutterstock